home - login - register

PERC 2018 Abstract Detail Page

Previous Page  |  New Search  |  Browse All

Abstract Title: Physics teaching assistants’ perceptions of a multiple choice problem: Empathy for students overshadows benefits of formative assessment
Abstract: Physics problems can be posed in different ways. Given a physics scenario, different problem types presenting the scenario in various ways can emphasize different learning goals for students such as developing expert-like problem-solving approaches. In this investigation, we examined physics graduate teaching assistants' (TAs') views about an introductory physics problem posed in a multiple-choice format within the context of a semester- long TA professional development course. The TAs were asked to list the pros and cons of a multiple choice problem, rank the problem in terms of its instructional benefit and the level of challenge it might produce for their students, and describe when and how often they would use it in their own classes if they had complete control of teaching the class. We find that the TAs did not generally recognize the instructional benefit of multiple choice questions as a formative assessment tool. They viewed them as tools for high-stakes summative assessment. The pros of multiple-choice questions were only thought of by TAs in a pragmatic sense, in that such questions are convenient for a number of practical reasons. In particular, TAs cited that multiple choice problems save time for students and allow them to check their answer, in addition to expediting the TAs' grading process. On the other hand, TAs were concerned about the possibility of students guessing, or otherwise receiving credit that may not reflect their understanding. While TAs' concerns have obvious validity and their empathy is valuable, the benefit of well-designed multiple choice questions as a formative assessment tool was not readily identified by them. Given the range of powerful ways in which multiple-choice questions can be used for low-stakes formative assessment to help students in the learning process, this is a serious oversight which has implications for future TA professional development programs.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session II
Poster Number: B33

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Melanie L. Good
University of Pittsburgh
and Co-Presenter(s)
Emily Marshman, University of Pittsburgh
Edit Yerushalmi, Weizmann Institute of Science
Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh